Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Play On: Now, Then and Fleetwood Mac by Mick Fleetwood and Anthony Bozza

Anyone who grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac in the seventies probably has at least a passing knowledge of the drama behind the band's triumphant Rumours, which is still among the top selling albums of all time. Two of the couples that formed the band (Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks and John and Christine McVie) were breaking up, affairs were being had, drugs and alcohol were rampant and recording costs were skyrocketing. However, you'd have to be a REAL Fleetwood Mac fan to be aware of the rest of the band's unusual history with guitarists: original guitar god Peter Green deciding to retire from the music industry, Jeremy Spencer quitting to join a religious cult and Danny Kirwan succumbing to mental illness. Even short-term replacement Bob Weston got into the act by having an affair with drummer Mick Fleetwood's wife.

In short, you can say that Fleetwood Mac has had a colorful history. Who better to take us down that road than its longtime drummer (and one of two remaining original members) Mick Fleetwood? In Play On, the tall, striking Fleetwood tells us his (and Mac's) story from his earliest days drumming with Bluesbreakers to the current Mac reunion of its most successful lineup of Fleetwood, Buckingham, Nicks and the McVies.

Bluesbreakers provided the training ground for many great British musicians including Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and the three who provided the basis for the original Fleetwood Mac: Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. While based in the blues, the Mac's sound developed into a more lyrical and mystical pop style, eventually leading to its massive success following Fleetwood's offer to the duo of Buckingham Nicks to join the group.

The story of Fleetwood's relationship with his ex-wife Jenny that runs through the book is intriguing, as they remain committed to each other (marrying and then later remarrying) while Jenny's resistance to life on the road and Fleetwood's allegiance to the rock and roll lifestyle doom any kind of happily ever after epilogue. But more interesting is Fleetwood's relationship with a band that has had more than 15 members over its lifetime - with consistency being found only in the bassist and drummer - but nearly every lineup of which was able to find success on the charts and on tour.

While the complete bestselling lineup tours stadiums these days playing the hits, I particularly enjoyed the stories about the early years. I think that anyone unfamiliar with the pre-1975 Buckingham Nicks years will find the book enjoyable due to the various intraband intrigues and colorful rock and roll stories. I at least hope that people are inspired to dig out some of the earlier less well-known albums that I love such as the Peter Green showcase Then Play On and the Bob Welch-era lineup's Kiln House and Future Games. All in all, a good read for fans of rock and roll bios.

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